Middle Eastern states are seeking to diversify their revenues and avoid possible collapse of their economies, in order to counteract the end-of-oil crisis expected in the middle of the 21st century. The sectors favored by the Arabs are renewable energy, luxury tourism, modern infrastructure and technology. The region’s governments have found ways to unify these four sectors, and Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, seems to want to position itself as the frontrunner in the Arab technology race.
While the world is looking towards Sillicon Valley in California, Shenzhen in China or Bangalore in India, the Saudi government has begun to prepare the creation of its first independent economic and technological zone: NEOM (short for the Arabic term Neo-Mustaqbal, New Future). At the helm of the project was until recently Klaus Kleinfeld, former CEO of Siemens AG, who upon his appointment as advisor to the Saudi Crown has been replaced by Nadhmi Al Nasr as CEO of NEOM.
Last October 24, 2017, at the Future Investment Initiative conference held in Riyadh, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made public this $500 billion project, part of the Saudi Vision 2030 political program. The territory where NEOM will be located is in the border area between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, on the shores of the Red Sea, through which almost ten percent of world trade flows, the temperature is 10ºC lower than the average of the rest of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and it is located less than eight hours’ flight from 70% of the world’s population, so it could become a major passenger transport hub.
What is NEOM Project
As announced by the Saudi government, NEOM will be a special economic city, with its own civil and tax laws and Western social customs, of 26,500 square kilometers (the size of Cyprus multiplied by three). The main objectives are to attract foreign investment from multinational companies, diversify the oil-dependent Saudi economy, create a free market space and home to millionaires, “a land for free and stress-free people; a start-up the size of a country: a blank sheet of paper on which to write the new era of human progress,” says a promotional video of the project. All this under the slogan: “The world’s most ambitious project: an entire new land, purpose-built for a new way of living”. According to the project’s website and official accounts, the 16 sectors of energy, mobility, water, biotechnology, food, manufacturing, communication, entertainment and fashion, technology, tourism, sports, services, health and wellness, education, and livability will generate 100 billion dollars a year.
Thanks to a report published by The Wall Street Journal and prepared by the consulting firms Oliver Wyman, Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Co., which, according to them, had access to more than 2,300 confidential planning documents, some of the ambitions and luxuries of the futuristic city have come to light. Among them are flying cars, holograms, a theme park of robot dinosaurs and Jurassic Park-style gene editing, never-before-seen technologies and infrastructure, luxury hotels, resorts and restaurants, mechanisms that create clouds to cause rainfall in arid areas, beaches with glow-in-the-dark sand, and even an artificial moon.
NEOM a project for a Tech Job Seekers
Another aim of the project is to make NEOM the safest city on the planet, through state-of-the-art surveillance systems that include drones, automated cameras, facial and biometric recognition machines, and an AI capable of reporting crimes without the need for citizens to report them. Similarly, the leaders of the urban initiative themselves predict that the city will be an ecological center of great projection, basing its power supply system solely on solar and wind energy obtained from panels and windmills, as they have a whole desert to install them.
For the moment, NEOM is only a project that is in its initial stages. The territory where the big city will be located is a desert terrain, mountains up to 2,500 meters high and 468 kilometers of virgin coastline of turquoise blue water, with a palace and a small airport. NEOM is being built from scratch, with an initial outlay of $9 billion from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA). Apart from foreign business investment, the Saudi government is looking for workers from all professional sectors to help in their respective fields: jurists to draft a civil, criminal and tax code; engineers and architects to design a modern, efficient and technological infrastructure and energy plan; and engineers and architects to design a modern, efficient and technological infrastructure and energy plan.
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